Poetry - All the Names Given

A drawing of a hand with writing on the wrist

Tony Cross is reading all the books shortlisted for this year's T.S. Eliot Prize. Here are his thoughts on All The Names Given by Raymond Antrobus...

This is the second collection of poems from Raymond Antrobus, after The Perseverance.

There are similar themes in both collections: deafness, race, memory, language, and our place in the world. It begins with a section that focuses on the authors surname and the way it intertwines with history and the present. Poems talk about his childhood and its complexities. His mother and his father. His grandparents. The personal as the universal.

Then there are poems about deafness. Two stick in my mind. Both focus on how law enforcement treats the deaf - For Tyrone Givans and Captions & A Dream for John T Williams of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribe.

As I always say when I write my reviews of poetry, I wish I had the vocabulary that would allow me to analyse these poems from a technical point of view. But then again, perhaps I don't. All I have is knowing how a poem affects me emotionally and those emotions stick.

One interesting thing in this collection are the captions that punctuate the poems. These, as Antrobus notes, were inspired by the work of a Deaf artist, Christine Sun Kim. Sun Kim is a deaf artist working with sound. One of her exhibitions, "The Sound Of / Closer Captions", takes captioned text from films and flips the experience from hearing focused to deaf focused. To quote from the Notes on the poems:

"When thinking about captions and subtitles, Sun Kim asks, 'Does sound itself have to be a sound? Could it be a feeling, emotion or an object? Could time itself become a sound?'" (p77)

[sound of mirrors breaking inside mirrors]

This makes for a reading experience where, inside and between poems, one must stop and think.

I enjoyed this collection, like I enjoyed The Perseverance. Antrobus is a powerful poet.

[ripens quietly]

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About the T.S. Eliot Prize

The T.S. Eliot Prize, for the best new poetry collection written in English and published in 2021 in the UK or Ireland, is run by The T.S. Eliot Foundation. This year's shortlist "celebrates ten books that sound clear and compelling voices of the moment" and includes one debut collection; work from six men and four women; one American; one poet from Ireland; as well as poets of Zambian and mixed-race ancestry, including Jamaican-British and Jamaican-Chinese.

Raymond Antrobus - All the Names Given (Picador)
Kayo Chingonyi - A Blood Condition (Chatto & Windus)
 - Read Tony's Review
Selima Hill - Men Who Feed Pigeons (Bloodaxe) - Read Tony's Review
Victoria Kennefick - Eat Or We Both Starve (Carcanet) - Read Tony's Review
Hannah Lowe - The Kids (Bloodaxe)
Michael Symmons Roberts -  Ransom (Cape Poetry) - Read Tony's Review
Daniel Sluman - single window (Nine Arches Press)
Joelle Taylor - C+nto & Othered Poems (The Westbourne Press) - Read Tony's Review
Jack Underwood - A Year in the New Life (Faber) - Read Tony's Review
Kevin Young - Stones (Cape Poetry) - Read Tony's Review

The winner of the 2021 Prize will be announced at the Award Ceremony on Monday 10th January 2022. For more on the shortlisted poets, including videos, readers’ notes and reviews, visit the T.S. Eliot Prize website.

Image - Amazon

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